Google v Viacom – the war is over!

15 Jul 2008

It appears the user ID war between search giant Google and media player Viacom is over after documents filed last night reveal the two companies have come to an understanding.

Over a week ago a US judge ordered Google to hand over YouTube user data to Viacom, a move that would have seen all IDs, IP addresses and a list of all viewed YouTube videos submitted to legal representatives of Viacom.

The move sparked outrage among internet users, as well as advocates of digital civil liberties, despite Viacom’s claims that it did not intend to identify individuals.

For a media powerhouse like Viacom, which owns brands like MTV, the move would have been seen as a retrograde step as today’s web culture relies heavily on YouTube traffic to promote artists, encourage loyalty to TV shows and market upcoming movies.

A new order filed last night instigates that Google will instead substitute user IDs and IP addresses for anonymous but unique identifiers.

According to the new order: “When producing data from the logging database pursuant to the order, defendants shall substitute values while preserving uniqueness for entries in the following fields: user ID, IP address and visitor ID.

“The parties shall agree as promptly as feasible on a specific protocol to govern this substitution whereby each unique value contained in these fields shall be assigned a correlative unique substituted value, and pre-existing interdependencies shall be retained in the version of the data produced.

“Defendants shall promptly (no later than seven business days after execution of this stipulation) provide a proposed protocol for this substitution. Defendants agree to reasonably consult with plaintiffs’ consultant if necessary to reach agreement on the protocol.”

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years